Auriemma wants to de-emphasize 3-pointers in women’s game
UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t want women’s college basketball to be dominated by the 3-point shot, like the men’s game is at virtually every level now.
Speaking to reporters before a coaches clinic at Harvard on Saturday, the 11-time NCAA champion said he is still hoping the NCAA will move the women’s 3-point line back, as the men did this year. In a straw poll at the Final Four this spring, the women’s coaches overwhelmingly voted against joining them.
“That was stupid, that the women didn’t move the line back,” Auriemma said. “Now you’ve got two lines on the court, which is stupid. And the other part is everybody thinks they’re a 3-point shooter.
“The further you move the line back, the better the game becomes. Because only those guys that are really good 3-point shooters will be shooting it. The other guys will be too embarrassed to shoot because they’re not going to make any.”
The NCAA women’s 3-point line is 20 feet, 9 inches from the basket at the top of the key, 16¾ inches closer than the line for college men, who this year moved back to the same distance as the WNBA and the international game (both men and women). The one in the NBA is 23 feet, 9 inches.
“The closer the line is, everybody thinks they can make you say. So everybody’s like, ‘I got this,’” he said. “I think it’s dumb. And you know what we’ll do? We’ll play like this for a year or so and then we’ll move it back just like theirs.”
The NBA has increasingly moved toward the 3-pointer, in part because of an analytics revolution that tells teams a bad 3-point shot will result in more points, on average, than a good 2-pointer. College and youth players have imitated the pros.
Auriemma is not a fan of what it’s done to the game.
Noting that a similar movement has turned baseball into long periods of inactivity punctuated by homers, the basketball Hall of Famer lamented the decline of the opposite field single.
“Anything that gets me a run, I’m in favor of it. Anything that gets me a bucket, I’m in favor of it,” he said. “Maybe because I don’t have that part of my brain that works analytically. I’m not a numbers guy.”
This year, Auriemma said, he will buck the trend by coaching his players to “put a premium on layups and free throws.” In practice, they have drawn more fouls on inside shots than in the last 10 years combined, he said.
“I don’t know what analytic that falls under,” he said. “So we’re going to get 3. Either we’re going to get it because we’ve got a couple of good 3-point shooters, or we’re going to score, get fouled and make a free throw. So I’m choosing a different way to get 3s.”
Auriemma said the women’s game has been a leader in improvements, going to quarters instead of halves, allowing teams to advance the ball in the last minute and eliminating one-and-one foul shots.
He’d also like to see the women’s shot clock go to 24 seconds, with 8 seconds to cross midcourt, like the NBA. It is currently 30 seconds, with a 10-second backcourt rule.
“There’s a lot of things that we did as a women’s game,” he said. “And then we blew it by not moving the line back.”
Of course, Auriemma has the luxury of knowing that his team can probably adapt to these proposals better than his opponents. In addition to the 11 NCAA titles UConn has won since 1995, the Huskies have reached the Final Four 12 years in a row and have lost only 19 games total in that span.
So what does he say to opponents who know that the possibility of getting hot from 3-point range might be their only hope at beating the Huskies.
“Your players are going to have to get better, and they will,” he said. “They will get better. No question about that.”